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City Council votes to put more bite into barking-dog ordinance

November 1, 2011 |  3:25 pm

How much barking is too much?

The Los Angeles City Council voted 12 to 0 Tuesday to amend the city's barking-dog ordinance, imposing fines on the owners of dogs that bark excessively -- even if the canines are not licensed by the city.

Under the changes, dog owners would face fines starting at $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second and $1,000 for a third if a hearing conducted by the city’s Department of Animal Services determines that a dog barks too much.

But exactly how much barking is too much?

The changes approved Tuesday will now make that clearer to animal services officials, Assistant City Atty. Dov Lesel said.

A dog’s barking is considered excessive if it continues for 10 minutes or more, or intermittently for 30 minutes or more within a three-hour period, Lesel said.

In addition to new fines, the changes will give animal services officials more power in dealing with owners of unlicensed dogs.

Under the old ordinance, last amended about 20 years ago, hearings did not proceed against residents who did not have licensed dogs, essentially stalling city action, Lesel said.

“Prior to this, it rewarded people who did not have licenses versus people who were law-abiding and had licenses,” Lesel said.

Jose Sigala, president of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council's board, said the changes make the ordinance fairer and clearer to residents. Sigala, however, worries that the fines are too steep.

“I can see this affecting a lot of working-class neighborhoods,” he said, noting that many residents have dogs to deter break-ins and other property crimes.

During Tuesday’s brief discussion on the ordinance amendment, Councilman Richard Alarcon urged that a marketing strategy be planned to inform Los Angeles residents of the new fines and changes.

The amended ordinance will now go to the mayor, who is expected to sign it. If he does, it will take effect before the end of the year.

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-- Ricardo Lopez at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Owners of dogs that bark excessively would be subject to fines under an ordinance approved by the L.A. City Council on Tuesday. Credit: Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times

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